Two down, two to go. The Toronto Marlies head back on the ice tonight against the Hershey Bears. Together, they open up the Eastern Conference Finals, though only one of them can move on to the battle for the big prize. Like any series, though, you have to take things one game at a time, and that’s what the two sides will be doing tonight as they try to get a head start on each other.
The closer that you get to the home stretch, the quieter everybody gets. That said, it looks like we might see a shakeup to the third line as Sam Carrick and Colin Smith were both late appearances at today’s morning skate. Tobias Lindberg and Frederik Gauthier would likely take their place, leaving a lineup that looks something like:
Zach Hyman – Mark Arcobello – Connor Brown
Josh Leivo – William Nylander – Kasperi Kapanen
Brendan Leipsic – Ben Smith – Tobias Lindberg
Rich Clune – Frederik Gauthier – Nikita Soshnikov
Andrew Campbell – Connor Carrick
Viktor Loov – Stuart Percy
TJ Brennan – Justin Holl
Hershey’s beat have been pretty silent about their lineup as well. Here’s what they looked like in their Game 7:
Chris Bourque – Travis Boyd – Garrett Mitchell
Jakub Vrana – Carter Camper – Dustin Gazley
Liam O’Brien – Nathan Walker – Riley Barber
Ryan Bourque – Zach Sill – Sean Collins
Ryan Stanton – Madison Bowey
Aaron Ness – Tyler Lewington
Christian Djoos – Erik Burgdoerfer
It’s not known for sure who will go between the pipes tonight, but the implication from Lance Hornby in his series preview seemed to be that the team would continue riding Antoine Bibeau until he gave them a reason not to.
Surely there’s something known above that the masses don’t if that’s the case. Maybe it’s a trend in how the team plays when each goalie is on the ice. Maybe Garret Sparks is still a little banged up from his Leafs stint. Maybe the team is just that confident in themselves that they think Bibeau should get the experience until it starts being a problem. I don’t know for sure; all I know is statistically speaking, Bibeau going in for a seventh consecutive start makes no sense.
On the other side, there’s Justin Peters. Peters has been hot in these playoffs but was also the 42nd of 47 regular AHL goaltenders in save percentage during the regular season. Scott Wedgewood looked really great against Utica and in the first couple of games before the Marlies started to break him down. Can they bring another goalie back to expectation? We’ll see.
What To Watch For
This game will likely involve a lot of posturing as the two sides try to figure each other’s goalie out. Both sides are noted sharpshooters (Hershey 1st in SH%, Toronto 2nd), after all. Toronto will also have to be prepared for a noticeable away crowd for the first time in these playoffs; while Albany and Bridgeport provided empty caverns that looked like house league games, the GIANT Center is expected to be full of some of the league’s most rabid fans.
Puck drop is at 7:00 PM. You can catch the game on TSN 2, TSN 1050, or AHL Live. Barring that, go watch your favourite Nicolas Cage movie.